AFTER the outstanding beauty of Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, I had an online debate with my old friend and former CNJ-er Joel Taylor about how you should expect and demand that kind of quality if you are going to spend £30 million on a show.
He said I’d be surprised how easily it is to spend all of that money and turn out a mess – and he was proven right by the embarrassment of the closing ceremony last night, the kind of show that only people in the stadium could enjoy (and most of them athletes with a four year thirst created by no nights outs in almost half a decade). This was the kind of show that if any other country had put on we’d be mocking them forever. The London Games, a picture of sporting theatre and achievement, deserved better.
But beyond whether you like acres of blokey Dad rock and clips of Freddie Mercury (and a bit of Jessie J looking like she was pleading with us to look at her) or not, somebody might have reminded the planners about what the 2012 Olympics had hammered home on every one of its spectacular days: that this was the Games where women excelled and proved that sport can be gripping whether its men or women taking part.
When it came to the last night, the closing ceremony was stumbling back to the idea that women are to gawp at. When the flag-bearers for each country came on, they were escorted by pretty, smiling (and to be fair they must have trained hard to smile for so long) women in tight red leather jackets and high heels. Now, what’s not to like about dressing up nice for a party, where what you want, feel good looking good in leather jackets and heels. It’s not that they should have been in sensible plimsolls and pullovers, and it’s not that women only wear high heels in life because they think men’ll like it. It’s just not immediately clear why only women could stride in next to the medalists. Maybe somebody can explain.
Then came the tradition of the men’s marathon victory ceremony being reserved for the last night party, a nice trailback to Pheidippides. Just a few years on, just a few, you’d think both marathon winners could find a way onto the final podium without harming tradition. The Ugandan national anthem played for Stephen Kiprotich as the walking army of red leather space cadet fantasies stood behind, cheek muscles starting to ache from the Joker smiles. A gameshow backdrop, it was like Kiprotich had been called down from the audience on The Price Is Right. The winner of the women’s marathon Tiki Gelana should have been on the stage to be celebrated too. Looking on she might have been glad to have been left out.
Later, instead of the Bowie rumours coming true, we got snippets of his music (nothing from Labryinth, sadly) and moving sea-crates containing stick thin supermodels. When the screens were pulled back, they pouted as only they can. For all London’s importance in the world of fashion, there will be many puzzled over why we needed to be reminded of a collection of women annually paid sums obliterating the salaries of gold-winning athletes, rowers and cyclists for wearing clothes and looking sultry.
The Spice Girls then returned, underlining how we skillfully marketed male-manufactured girl power to the world. And by the time Eric Idle came on for us to all go ‘ooooh – he said shit in front of everyone’, there was a fresh cast of lovelies in angel costumes on hand.
All this in the stadium where Jessica Ennis had captured the real magnificence of the Games. Britain did it right on the field of play, but last night, no no no no no….